Ray Charles: Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters

A new Ray Charles album? That’s right! This is no re-release, compilation or collection of rarities that might have appeared somewhere a long time ago. Ray was a studio scientist, oftentimes engineering his own experiments, many of which were left on the studio room floor.

Digging through three decades worth, producer John Burk has come up with 10 gems featuring Ray’s pristine vocals—with all the hurt, joy, humor and grit intact. With added parts like a guitar here and a rhythm section there, these tracks come thrillingly alive big band style with Ray wailin’ and jivin’ big time.

His interplay with the Raelettes is priceless on “I’m Gonna Keep On Singin’.” It’s Ray at his funkiest: cajoling, kidding, flirting and testifying while a major league brass section dances a carnivalesque dipsy-doodle around his exhortations. Then he goes all Herbie Hancock with a scintillating electric piano solo.

Let it be said that Ray now posthumously owns “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” a song that’s been recorded by the biggest and the best. They can all have a back seat. Ray inhabits the song’s inner bravado, releasing it with a knowing smile and a smirk. It’s a vocal for the ages.

Country music was always a huge part of Ray’s soul (he was, after all, one of the greatest of country singers) and it’s represented here beautifully. Hank Cochran’s “A Little Bitty Tear” is now Ray’s. Kris Kristofferson’s classic “Why Me, Lord” has Ray harmonizing with Johnny Cash and playing deliciously bluesy piano.

I await more.

In A Word: Ohmigod!